Did you ever wonder why we groan?
A groan is not a word. It is not simply an involuntary utterance, like a hiccup or a yawn, yet it is present in every language and pronounced more or less the same way universally. I’ve been in lots of places and heard lots of languages, and when somebody’s groaned I’ve never had to whisper to one of my colleagues, “What did she just say?” When someone groans, we get it.
Admittedly, context explains a lot. A groan could mean any one of the following:
“”I can’t believe I ate that whole thing.”
“Why wasn’t I more careful lifting those rocks yesterday?”
“I want this baby outta me this minute!”
“Do we have to discuss this again?”
“That’s absolutely horrible news.”
“That’s the worst pun I’ve heard in a long time.”
In each of these examples, were the context known to us, we would acknowledge that a groan is appropriate.
Groaning is mentioned several times in the New Testament. Sometimes, the Greek verb is translated, “sigh”. But we get the idea–it is an inarticulate vocalization of pain, distress, or sorrow. The passage that comes to mind first when I think of groaning is Romans 8. In the section between verses 22 and 26, Paul uses the word three times.
In verse 22, he mentions that “the whole creation has been groaning together in pains of childbirth until now.” The creation itself bears the weight of the curse of sin, and the state of the created order is like a collective groan of anguish. The “food chain”; the extinction of various species; man’s fear of animals and animals’ fear of man; our irresponsible stewardship of the earth; horrific natural disasters–this is creation groaning with the pain of a woman in labour who, in the midst of the unspeakable suffering, yearns to have her child in her arms and at her breast.
Verse 23 describes the groaning of Christians as we observe the sin; corruption; injustice; pain; immorality; blasphemy; greed; idolatry and inhumanity that characterizes our age and long for our “adoption as sons”–that moment when we will be in God’s presence and all of the things that now cause us to groan will be forever past.
The last verse that mentions groaning is verse 26, where Paul assures us that even when we are unable to articulate what is on our hearts and unable to pray “as we ought”, the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us, intercedes for us “with groanings too deep for words.”
He who knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes groans for us, and the Father to Whom we pray always understands. And when we stop groaning, so will He.
The photo is from http://www.joannekraft.com and does not appear to be a self-portrait.